With congestion pricing all but dead, Mayor Bloomberg is picking up the pieces after his second major policy defeat in Albany by forging ahead with other issues that could keep him on the national stage as he weighs a run for the White House.
Mr. Bloomberg emerged from his fight with Albany lawmakers infuriated by their inaction, but vowed to work around the defeat to push other parts of his 20-year environmental and infrastructure blueprint for New York City.
"I'm gonna be fine. I'm gonna go and keep fighting for the next 898 days," he said, referencing the countdown until the end of his term. "The administration, we're going to fight a lot of battles and some we're going to win and some we're going to lose."
With two years left in office, the mayor must decide whether to spend more of his political capital on what is likely to be a losing issue or to embark on a new crusade. Yesterday, he tried to begin moving beyond congestion pricing, an initiative that would have been forever linked to his legacy.
He started the morning with an event that highlighted his crusade against illegal guns, an issue that regularly garners him national attention, and announced a four-and-a-half-year contract with the city's sanitation workers.
Still, his staff continued negotiating with representatives of Governor Spitzer, the speaker of the state Assembly, Sheldon Silver, and the Senate majority leader, Joseph Bruno. But, barring a last-minute miracle compromise, Albany's failure to approve the pilot program on Monday seems to have knocked the city out of the running for about $500 million in federal transportation money.
Mr. Bloomberg ended months of trying to play nice with Albany leaders, taking a dig at Mr. Silver for failing to meet the federal deadline and attacked lawmakers for passing up a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
"I heard a lot of talk about the politics of congestion pricing and how it was a difficult lift and a dangerous one," Mr. Bloomberg said. "All I kept thinking about, was, you know, some people have guts and lead from the front and some people don't."
He also got into a war of wars with the Senate minority leader, Malcolm Smith, who came out in favor of congestion pricing weeks ago and then reversed course on Monday. The senator said his conference which had a combative meeting with Mr. Bloomberg Monday would vote against it if it were only put to a vote in the Senate. "I don't know that that's any great courage," Mr. Bloomberg said.
Mr. Smith, who represents an influential African-American area in southeast Queens and until this week was a Bloomberg ally, shot back during an interview on NY1 last night, criticizing Mr. Bloomberg for supporting the slim Republican majority in the Senate. He said Mr. Bloomberg should not have come into the meeting counting on their votes and then "say to them, Well I'm going to spit in your face. I'm going to give the Republican conference money so they can maintain the majority.'"
Mr. Bloomberg will have to patch up relationships in Albany if he wants to go back to the state capital with other big-ticket items. A state senator who represents parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn, Diane Savino, said that while this week's meetings with the mayor did not go well, he would bounce back.
"People thought that the stadium and the Olympics was going to destroy his relationship with the state Legislature and it didn't," she said, referring to Mr. Bloomberg's failed attempt to win a Jets stadium for Manhattan's West Side. "Sometimes politics can be a blood sport you fight over stuff but he's not a single issue person and neither are we."
Political observers said they don't expect a political setback for Mr. Bloomberg. In fact, many said he would come out ahead because he'd be able to bill himself as a crusader going against the political establishment. That could work to his advantage if he runs for president as an Independent.
The president of the Partnership for New York City, Kathryn Wylde, said she believes Governor Spitzer still had about 24 hours to broker a deal in order to qualify the city for the $500 million.
"We were frankly amazed that the mayor was able to get it to this point," she said. "And we're prepared to get it done next year if we can't get it done this year. Federal dollars come and go. Who knows, maybe we'll have a New Yorker as president, that can help us."
Mr. Bloomberg has managed to escape his second-term lame-duck stature by traveling the country and fueling speculation about his presidential ambitions. Several sources said they expected him to come up with at least one more big-ticket agenda item before leaving office.